As any horse racing fan will tell you, Ruby Walsh is one of the greatest jockey’s of all time and this week looks to be one of the most pivotal in his illustrious career. By some small miracle he has managed to over come a leg break sustained in a fall at Punchestown on 18 November just in time for the Cheltenham Festival 2018.
Walsh had hoped to return to action sooner but his comeback last weekend was prevented by bad weather but the additional wait had little impact as he returned to the saddle with victory aboard favourite Lareena at Thurles.
During a very frank and open interview with Off The Ball in February, Walsh expressed his frustration at being sidelined and admitted that his leg was still only at 97% but that was enough to enable to ride again.
Once again he has an impressive selection of runners for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival including the favourite, Getabird, in the festival’s opening race, the Supreme Novices Hurdle. With an impressive start to his career, the Willie Mullins trained Getbird has won four from four, two of which were over hurdles but he will face some stiff competition in the form of Kalashnikov from trainer Amy Murphy who, despite being a year younger, does have a few more races and wins under his belt.
No doubt Walsh is hoping that Getabird can get him off the ground and winning from the start if only to avoid a repeat of 2017 when the Mullins-Walsh partnership failed to score in either of the first two days of the festival. Of course you can’t keep a good thing down and by Thursday the duo were back to their winning ways and bounced back emphatically with a memorable four-timer as Yorkhill and Un De Sceaux delivered before Nichols Canyon landed the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle, while Let’s Dance also triumphed for the duo.
Those wins only added to Walsh’s lifetime success at the Festival and as of 2017, Walsh is the Festival’s most successful rider with 56 wins and has won the leading rider’s award eleven times within the last fourteen years. At the 2009 Cheltenham Festival Walsh rode a record-breaking seven winners over the four days. He equalled that record at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.
On opening day Ruby Walsh is lined up to ride in five of the seven scheduled races and is in the top two of the betting for four of them when he saddles up Getabird, Footpad, Faugheen, Benie Des Dieux and Livelovelaugh in the last race of the day.
And while punters love a good Ruby Walsh win the bookmakers are not so keen to see him return to his winning ways and given that he has up to 20 rides during the festival, industry experts say if all his horses win bookies would lose £100 million.